does my reply to the group mailing list go to the author, not the list?
to a sticky issue that has irked mailing-list administrators
and list members alike for a very long time.
of all, it is not an administrative oversight that the HWG
mailing list is configured as it is (such that ordinary replies
go to the author, not the list). On the contrary,
it is a carefully considered choice. It is this administrator's
is the only correct choice to a conundrum that is all too little
is lots of external material on this bone of contention. I'll
cite a couple of such later. First, though, let me give a summary
that I hope is relatively unencumbered by technical jargon.
not loose focus: it is acknowledged that the main purpose of
a group mailing list is to facilitate communication among list
members in a way practical and useful to them. When a fair
number of list members have trouble in that they mistakenly
email the lone sender when they intended to write the list,
one understandable reaction might be: replies
ought to go to the list. I want to exchange ideas with the
not just with a specific individual who wrote the list. In
fact, the [insert some other list user knows about] list I'm
just that way!
you're nodding your head in agreement, please stop. If it were
that easy, it'd be, well, easy. The problems are manifold.
They start with how email programs are designed and include
issues of safety, security, and privacy. I'll highlight only
the most important, most obvious points here.
programs have different types of reply functionality. There
are individual replies and group replies available in most
any of them. More advanced programs have special added
functionality, as well, such as dedicated list reply features.
In any case,
assuming your program is limited to replying to an individual
sender or the entire group, it makes little sense to obviate
that natural choice and externally force the "individual" reply
to behave like a group reply.
reasons of practicality, as well, things like out-of-office
or vacation replies should not be reflected to the list. They
will be, however, if the configuration of the list "overrides
nature" and forces
group replies. People ought not to be sending such auto-replies
list addresses, but
happen (on badly configured lists, when users or mail administrators
have invoked ill-thought-through blanket rules). If replies
go to the group by default,
reasons of privacy and probity,
as well, if a list
administrator has tweaked his list to cause a normal reply
to go to everyone,
then a member who expects the traditional behavior in email
can too easily reply with a remark he intended only for a private
recipient. If that message is broadcast to the entire list,
embarrassment may ensue.
a list should be as transparent as it can be. Just as you don't
want (I don't think) postal inspectors crossing out addresses
you write and inserting their own choice for
where your letter should be
delivered, you also don't want the list administrator to make
a similar presumption. You are writing your email.
and should control where it's going. Tradition – yes,
newfangled email has its established traditions – insists
that "reply" go to the writer. To address
everyone, use "group
reply" (or more advanced list features, if your program
minor problem about replying to "group" does arise,
however: the typical email program then inserts both the
list address and the original sender's address into the To-field.
Now the party whose message you're responding to will get two
copies of your reply. That, we grant, is annoying.
The solution requires you as the sender to use some thought.
(We continue to hope this small requirement does not render
the entire strategy unworkable!) You should delete the individual
address from the To-field; your recipient will get his copy
with the list mail.1
short, you as a reasonably intelligent, thoughtful contributor
to a group discussion have a bit of responsibility to learn
a modicum of the basic functionality of your email
program — rather than forcing an imperfect, dangerous
solution on the list out of some misapprehension of personal
are two links to external commentary that I found
to be worthwhile on this topic. In a related
vein, please also see this link;
in particular, Section 2.4 therein.
1Or use an
advanced mail program that understands lists and how to reply